“It’s time to keep your promise for nuclear zero.”
The Republic of the Marshall Islands has filed lawsuits in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the nine nuclear-armed states holding them accountable for flagrant violations of international law with respect to their nuclear disarmament obligations. The Marshall Islands has also lodged a parallel case against the United States in a US Federal Court.
In 1996, the ICJ affirmed that there is an unconditional obligation to achieve the complete elimination of nuclear weapons under strict and effective international control. The Marshall islands claims that the nuclear armed States have flagrantly violated this obligation by not commencing the required negotiations, and by continuing to modernise their nuclear forces.
The Marshall Islands is standing up to the nuclear-armed States due to their painful experience from the 67 nuclear weapons which were tested above ground on or near Bikini and Enewetok atolls between 1946 and 1958. One hydrogen bomb was 1000 times larger than the Hiroshima bomb. Entire islands were vaporized and populated islands were blanketed with fallout. Many of the Marshall Islanders developed cancers and had babies that were stillborn or with serious birth defects.
“Our people have suffered the catastrophic and irreparable damage of these weapons, and we vow to fight so that no one else on earth will ever again experience these atrocities. The continued existence of nuclear weapons and the terrible risk they pose to the world threaten us all.”
— Tony de Brum, Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands, announcing the ICJ Court Case
Update on the lawsuits
The ICJ lawsuits against India, Pakistan and the UK are proceeding as these three countries accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court for cases submitted by other countries also accepting compulsory jurisdiction.
The initial memorials (written arguments) by all parties have been lodged with the ICJ.
The Marshall Islands has requested that the Court make a declaratory judgment of breach of obligations of the nuclear armed States relating to nuclear disarmament, cessation of the nuclear arms race, and good faith. The Marshall Islands has also requested the Court to issue an order to the nuclear armed States to take, within one year of the judgment, all steps necessary to comply with their obligations under the NPT and customary international law with respect to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and nuclear disarmament, including the pursuit, by initiation if necessary, of negotiations in good faith aimed at the conclusion of a convention on nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.
Preliminary hearings on admissibility and jurisdiction will be held from March 7-16, 2016 at the ICJ in the Hague, Netherlands.
Request for support from governments
The Marshall islands has requested other non-nuclear governments to join the case in support – either by filing parallel cases or by intervening.
Parallel cases can be lodged by any government that accepts the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ. Click here for a list of countries that have accepted ICJ compulsory jurisdiction.
The ICJ has advised all States Parties to the NPT that they have a right to intervene in the case against the UK, regardless of whether or not they accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court. This is because the case against the UK involves interpretation and implementation of Article VI of the NPT, and so all NPT parties have an interest in the case.
Support for the initiative
Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Tony de Brum and the people of the Marshall islands have received numerous prestigious awards for the stand they have taken in the ICJ. These include the Sean McBride Peace Prize, the Nuclear Free Future Award and the Right Livelihood Award.
Over 5 million people have signed the Nuclear Zero petition supporting the case.
However, so far, not one government has been courageous enough to join the Marshall Islands in the Court against the nuclear giants. You can help change this.
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